Literature and the loss of art

Poetry and literature in general is a funny thing. The great examples have a lot of insights which can help to keep your spirits up during tough times, and if the insights are grim then inspiration is available. But I can’t escape the reflection that it is all a bit hypothetical. Art has the advantage that it has to be made, and made of real stuff. There is the resistance of the material, and of the hand itself. There is the need to practice and gain competence, and the endless solving of practical problems. Not to deny that there is such a thing as literary and verbal skill, but that is to conjure a habitation for airy nothings. I can’t even understand how anything can be known without making. I had no comprehension of video until I made some; no understanding of conceptualism until likewise. Lacanian feminism was only words on a page until I painted a nude—actually until that nude had the right critique, because the work continues when the piece is shown and the material doesn’t exist without the people who form it and are formed by it. When something new is made the world is materially different—I can’t believe that ideas are events, or that history is marked by the emergence of profound thoughts. Literature seems to be thinking about life without making it; art is always a testing of the real. But there is something heroic in that, to do the most with the least, to find the particularity of the real without any particulars, and it’s a kind of heroism congruent with modernist abstraction. I’m still thinking about the idea discussed a few posts back, of art as all backstory, as always lost, existing only in the mind and memory. Maybe I should try it.

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